Archive for September, 2013

Room for improvement

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

As I’m delivering a foot-high pile of freshly washed and folded clothes (aren’t I a nice mom) to my 17 year-old daughter’s room, I encounter a problem; I can’t find anywhere to set down the stack of jeans, tops, leggings, and assorted mismatched socks. Every surface – including the floor – already has something on it. School papers, text books, empty Target bags, more clothes, a sleeping cat, towels, a still-packed backpack that I think she used in 8th grade – make up the topography of her room. I resort to putting them on top of another pile of clean clothes still leaning precariously against the foot of her bed that I had deposited in her room several days ago.

Have I failed as a mother? If the state of Jennifer Lynn’s room were measured against my mother’s standards for how a household should be run, the answer would certainly be “yes.” When I was a teenager, my mother never would have allowed me to have piles of stuff strewn about my bedroom.

Not only was my room kept neat when I was growing up, it amazes me to think back that it was expected – and I complied – that once a week everything was moved off of my dresser and desk and the surfaces were thoroughly dusted. My attitude is that it’s a good thing we moved twice in the last two years because it shook loose the previous 17 years of dust that had accumulated on the knickknacks and shelves in my kids’ rooms.

But I don’t think the fallen state of our children’s rooms is unique to our household. Last week, another mom was telling me how her daughter’s room is a disaster. Like me, it irritates her that her daughter’s room looks like it was struck by a tornado when she works hard to keep the rest of the house tidy, if not white-glove dust free. And I’ve heard other moms talk about their struggle with the state of chaos in their daughter’s rooms. It’s seems an entire generation is incapable of putting their socks away.

But I can only blame myself. Did I enforce any rules about keeping her room tidy? Nope. Back in the ice age when I was a teenager, a shopping outing only happened after all the chores were done and that included dusting the dresser along with putting your clothes away and vacuuming.

Which leads me to wonder why I didn’t enforce the same kind of system with my own daughters. Why do I expect less of them than was expected of me? Do we think more is demanded of them in school that was demanded of us, so we let them off the hook on tasks at home? If I see Jennifer flopped on the couch watching “How I Met Your Mother” on Netflix, should I insist she turn it off until she cleans her room and I deem that it passes inspection?

I guess I’m just not that much of a drill sergeant after all. And when I start to getting all righteous about Jennifer keeping her room clean, I should take a closer look our nightstands. Something about the speck of (saw) dust in my daughter’s room while I pay no attention to the blanket (of dust) in my own room…


On a mission to Petaluma Junior High

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Driving to Adobe Christian Center on Saturday morning with the windshield wipers going full speed, I couldn’t help but have the thought that it would be okay with me if I got there and they had decided to cancel the event. You see, I was on my way to join up with members of our church and other churches who are part of the City Ministries of Petaluma for a City-Wide Clean Up Day. What really sounded good was making a Starbucks stop and then heading home to get started on the long list of chores that I wanted to cross off the list.

But I and the couple hundred other people who showed up for the pre-clean up breakfast had committed to do work. In the spectrum of showing some perseverance in spite of unexpected challenges, doing some yard work in the rain is about as mild as it gets. We’re not talking Daniel and the lion’s den here.

Weeding the Polly Klaas Memorial Garden at PJHS

City Ministries of Petaluma is a coalition of 10 Christian churches throughout Petaluma that pray for one another, occasionally have a shared worship service and look for ways to serve the community as was the case with Saturday’s clean up.

The overall plan for the day was to take on some of the maintenance work at Petaluma schools that the thinly-spread custodial staff never has time or budget to take care of. School administrators had provided a list of tasks that they hoped could be done during the morning of work. Any exterior painting that had been planned wasn’t going to happen due to the rain but weed pulling, raking, trimming and general clean up could still happen.

The 50 or so members from our church, Petaluma Valley Baptist, were split into two groups; one group for Kenilworth and the group I was in was sent to Petaluma Junior High. It’s always a little confusing when to start a project with a group of volunteers until a plan of attack gets sorted out.

We were all grateful when someone who works at the school arrived to give us some direction. But hey, a weed is a weed, and given the plentiful supply of them on the grounds, it didn’t take long for us to jump in and start pulling.

I was a little hesitant about pruning the rose bushes between the upper wings of classrooms knowing that there it is an art to doing it (do you cut above or below the five leaves?) and I garden with the finesse of a lumberjack. “Is a school administrator going to arrive on Monday and any good work that we have done will be for naught because what will be noticed is that I butchered the roses?”

I decided to rely on what I’ve seen happen in front of the Petaluma Visitors Center. Once a year, a city parks & rec worker comes by with a piece of gas-powered equipment and in a matter of minutes, cuts all the rose bushes so they are about 18 inches tall. And every year, the roses seem to come back even more beautiful and fragrant than the year before.

Will the students, teachers, and administration arrive on Monday and have a reaction of “Jump back! These volunteers totally transformed the grounds – it’s never looked so good!” Probably not; it’s a big campus and there’s a lot more that needs to be done. But I know that we filled two dumpsters with branches, weeds and clippings. In the midst of the showers, we were able to shower some love on PJHS and that felt good.

These shoes are made for walking

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

I now understand why so many old people wear athletic shoes. It’s because their feet hurt. It makes no difference to them that they are wearing shoes that are meant for running marathons. What’s important to them is putting on a pair of shoes that makes them say, “ahhh.” Because when your arches ache or your toes don’t bend like they used to, even if you’re only walking from the refrigerator back to the La-Z-Boy, all that gel cushioning feels awfully good.

Why do I know this? I know it because my feet hurt too. And as much as I would like to keep wearing my pointy-toed pumps, I have come to the realization that when my feet hurt, there ain’t no sunshine in the world and I am likely to start singing the “I’m Walking on Bloody Stump Blues.”

I knew I was in trouble when I started planning my day around my footwear. “Hmmm, I can’t stop at the grocery store today because I can barely squeeze my feet into the shoes that match my outfit and if I have to walk across the parking lot and I am likely to be weeping by the time I get to the entrance.”

But like so many aspects of getting older, having to accept that things I was once able to do – or in this case, things that I was able to wear – have changed, isn’t easy for me. I’ve resisted giving up that pair of really cute faux snakeskin pumps that I got a fantastic deal on at Nordstrom Rack is because I associate comfortable shoes with being old.

One of the most vivid memories I have of my grandmother is the sensible shoes she always wore. Regardless of the season or occasion, she always had on the same black, lace-up oxfords. But then I have to remind myself that her generation had other options for what to wear; she actually liked acting old and prim.

Another reason it’s been hard for me to accept that I could no longer wear most of the shoes in my closet is because they represent many wonderful shopping trips that my daughters and I made to Nordstrom Rack stores and the good times we shared together. For instance, I got the red pumps with buckle the first time we ever when to a Nordstrom Rack store; it was in Century City in LA when Valerie and I were there for a gymnastics meet at least five years ago. And the cute black and white fabric flats – I got those when the girls and I made a day of it in Sacramento. Never mind the pain I feel when I wear these shoes, I can get teary just looking at them.

But enough sentimentality. Especially because it’s my own fault that so many pairs of my shoes are destined for Goodwill. When I was shopping for them at Nordstrom Rack, I often found a pair that I loved but they were just a little snug – but I bought them anyway and figured I would just suffer for fashion’s sake. Well now that my feet have swelled, I look like Cinderella’s stepsisters when I try to put them on. Vanity, thy name is…mine.

My tale of footwear woe does have a happy ending, Thank goodness a friend of mine told me that she shops at the Aerosoles stores. The shoes are comfortable and still cute. Since I’m worried about seeming old, a shopping trip there was better than Botox (as if). Putting on a pair of shoes and not having my face pinched from the pain? That probably took 10 years off.

Falling shorts

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

There are a lot of reasons that I look forward to the fall – it means that my favorite holiday of the year – Thanksgiving – isn’t far off, the return of the rainy season will turn the parched brown hills to a vibrant green, and chilly temperatures mean that when people get dressed they put on more clothes and show off less skin.

There’s just no way to talk about this and not sound judgmental. There are some people who look good in camisoles, super-short shorts, and flip flops…and then there is everyone else over the age of 14.

Some of my judgment comes from my own self consciousness about my appearance as I’ve gotten older. I don’t like looking at my own crepey skin sagging above my knees or my crooked arthritic toes – why would anyone else?

Yet in the summertime, you can’t go out in public without seeing a lot of lumpy body parts that would look much more attractive under a layer or two of fabric.

As a fan of the TLC show “What Not to Wear,” I think most people dress they way that they do because they don’t really know how they look. In one of the early segments of every show, the woman who has been selected for the fashion intervention puts on one of her favorite outfits and goes into a closet-size room with 360 degree mirrors. Most of them are shocked to see how they look from all sides – especially from the back.

Who of us doesn’t hate trying on clothes for that same reason? We go into the dressing room and are faced with the truth of the squishy masses of pale flesh that are our thighs reflected back at us in the mirror. Ack!!! No wonder that it’s so easy in the summer to throw on something stretchy and avoid looking in the mirror altogether.

There is also the fact that most summer clothes aren’t flattering to anyone who isn’t a size 2. Whoever started marketing Capri pants to mature women should be permanently exiled to the isle of Capri. When I was growing up, pants that ended a few inches below the knee were called pedal-pushers, so named because they were short enough that your pant leg wouldn’t get caught in the chain when you were riding your bike.

I think they should have stayed a fashion statement for elementary school age girls. Is there anything that makes a middle-age woman look squattier and shorter than having her pants stop at the widest part of her calf? And just in case the bottom half of doesn’t look large enough, 90 percent of Capri pants are sold in glacier white.

It’s not any better for men. Droopy shorts, knobbly knees and boxy faux Hawaiian shirts. Unless you’re actually in a tropical location, there are very few men who can pull off wearing shorts and still look like a grown up.

So I’m ready for the temperature to drop so we can bring on the sweaters, long pants, scarves and jackets. But please – no leggings worn as pants on anyone born after 1988.